RN's Tigris + Euphrates River Gunboats

Cliff McMullen has provided some details and period illustrations of the Tigris River Flotilla ,

The following appeared on MARHST-L in November 1999, the contributions being reproduced by permission of the author.

From: David Asprey (david.asprey@BRITISH-SHIPPING.ORG)
on November 25, 1999 10:40 AM Glen Hodgins wrote:

I have recently come into possession of two (personal) photos, taken by a contact's grandfather during the Mesopotamia Campaign. The photographer was a signaller in the Royal New Zealand Signal Corps. None of the photos have an accompanying explanation. They both, however, look like they were commandeered wooden river ferries, of the type still common in these parts of the world, especially in the delta region of Bengal: - approx 150 ft in length; - 2 decks; - effectively no freeboard; (and I assume very little draught as well); - no open decks; (ie., the superstructure goes all the way to the gunwales, right around the hull) - they appear to be side-wheelers; - a flat top, except for a single funnel, and a small wheelhouse, about one-third back from the bow. - one appears to have the pennant number "P.A.7" painted on the stack; and the other "96" (or possibly "98") on its stack.

I will certainly be able to give you on Monday the origins of these two from my files on this fleet at home. They were certainly both in the river transport fleet which began in 1914 under the control of the Royal Indian Marine in support of the Indian Expeditionary Force and was transferred to the Inland Water Transport Directorate of the War Office after the debacle at Kut when a pushy river naval/army advance on Baghdad became hopelessly isolated from their inadequate support transport for both reinforcements and supplies. After the take-over, the crews, mainly from India, continued.

"PA 7" would have been a Paddle Ambulance ship and "96" (actually "PS 96" in the lists, but the "P" class generally didn't put their prefixis on their funnels) a regular paddle transport. These vessels were not generally armed, except with defensive small arms, and were quite separate from the Royal Navy's flotilla of shallow draft gunboats.

The photos are probably, as you surmise, from about 1917-18 as it was only from 1917 that the "PA" designation was used.

[and he followed this up with a subsequent post:]

PA 7 was one of the more-travelled newbuilding paddle steamers for the WO fleet. She was built and engined in 1917 as HP 14 (hospital paddler) by A & J Inglis, Pointhouse (yd no 316). 510grt 362nrt 220.1 x 30.1 x 6.8ft; 2xC2cy diagonal 18"35"x54" 214nhp 1050ihp 11 kts.

In 1918 she was redesignated PA 7 (paddle ambulance). By mid-1919 she had returned to England and was sent as the Admiralty TC 1 (troop carrier) to the North Russian Rivers Campaign on the River Dvina. She returned later that year and was laid up. In 1922 she was sold to Henry J Beazley of Southampton (at which point she was registered - with the name TC 1 - at Southampton - ON 145368); the following year she passed into the ownership of Richard W Barnett MP but was scrapped in 1925. I have no idea for what purpose she was intended as a commercial vessel.

PS 96 (she cannot have been PS 98, as the highest number was 97) was one of the large fleet of the Rivers Steam Navigation Co of Calcutta which was requisitioned for service in Mesopotamia, though in this case not until 1917. She was built as KHAROTI at the owner's own yard in Calcutta in 1912 to plans by William Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton, who also manufactured the engine (she and her sister TARAKI - later PS 95 - were later sisters of the Denny-built SWATI, yd 807, and DAWARI, yd 808, of 1907). The Indian-built pair were 799grt 666nrt 245.0 x 36.0 x 9.5ft with a single diagonal T3cy installation 17"25=BD"38"x72" 79nhp 950ihp 11k.

PS 95 was offered back to Rivers Steam Nav Co in 1920 through MacNeill & Co and re-entered service with them as KHAROTI. She was still in service with them on the Ganges & Hughli, as were her three sisters above, in 1960 - the latest list I have seen.

Last Updated: 16 January, 2000

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